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Buford girls edged by St. Pius X, 48-45, in AAA title game

Lady Wolves fall short after dominant first quarter

POSTED: March 8, 2014 11:47 p.m.
Jared Putnam | The Times/

Buford's Tara Dambach wrestles for a loose ball during the Class AAA girls state championship game between the Lady Wolves and St. Pius X on Saturday at the Macon Centreplex.

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MACON — Gene Durden knew playing in the Macon Centreplex could lead to some shooting issues early in Saturday’s Class AAA state championship game.

As it turns out, Buford’s coach was right. Unfortunately for Durden and the Lady Wolves, though, St. Pius X’s shooters eventually found their form.

After St. Pius missed its first 12 shots to open the game, junior Asia Durr, the nation’s top-rated player, scored a game-high 23 points and Georgia signee Jasmine Carter finished with 12 points to lead St. Pius to a 48-45 win over Buford in the Class AAA girls state title game in Macon.

“I think we came out and got the cobwebs out,” Durr said. “We started slow. And when the shots weren’t falling, we stayed confident.”

That confidence was key for the Golden Lions (30-3) on Saturday. After Buford raced out to a commanding 15-1 lead, holding Durr and Carter to a combined 0 for 9 from the floor, St. Pius’ girls were able to outscore Buford 22-6 for their first lead of the game off a 3-pointer by Durr with 46 seconds remaining in the first half.

“We knew Durr and Carter were going to do a good job at trying to take over,” Durden said. “And we gave them too many open looks.”

The Golden Lions were able to get their lead as large as eight in the third quarter before Buford (30-3) fought back to close within three with 1:31 remaining, when junior Corey Staples recorded a steal and layup off a St. Pius inbounds play.

After St. Pius got it back to a five-point lead, Buford’s Tara Dambach made a free throw to bring the Lady Wolves’ deficit back to four. Then Carter missed both free throws on the other end, and Bree Horrocks converted a field goal to bring the score to 47-45.

After Carter pushed St. Pius’ lead back to three with 9.5 seconds left, Buford rushed the ball up the court and settled for a contested layup, rather than a game-tying 3-pointer.

Horrocks missed the layup and Buford was forced to foul with 0.2 seconds remaining.

“We were trying to push it in,” Durden said. “We’ve had some kids that have played who have had some inexperience. You can’t turn it over on the open floor against great players like Carter and Durr.”

It’s hard to imagine that one play could have cost Buford a state championship, but after the game the Lady Wolves were left wondering what could have been if a call had gone their way at the end of the first quarter.

With Buford leading 15-3, junior Camille Anderson drained a long 3-pointer at the quarter buzzer. But the shot was waved off by the officials, who said she did not release the ball before the red lights on the backboard lit up to signify to the end of the quarter.

“One play doesn’t win it, one play doesn’t lose it,” Durden said. “We missed a whole lot of easy shots that we shouldn’t have. If you do that against good teams, you’re going to have troubles.”

St. Pius X managed to calm down and find a rhythm after the Lady Wolves’ hot start.

A major reason was the play of Durr, who missed her first five shots (all 3-point attempts). She made her first field goal at the 5:08 mark of the second quarter, adding fuel to the Golden Lions’ comeback.

She continued to find her groove, adding a pair of free throws and a pair of threes, the second of which gave St. Pius its first lead of the game at 23-21.

Buford never led again.

After the game, Durden said he wasn’t going to look back at what the Lady Wolves’ didn’t accomplish on Saturday, instead choosing to focus on the positives from a successful season.

It was a season that saw the Lady Wolves return just two starters from last year’s team — which lost to St. Pius in the quarterfinals — and finish with a 30-3 record, and as Region 7-AAA champions.

“This team has nothing to be disappointed about,” Durden said. “We have nothing to hang our heads about.”

Anderson finished with 14 points to lead Buford. Horrocks finished with 13 points for the Lady Wolves, who also finished runner-up in Class AA in 2012.


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